Personal Injury At Sea

The sea is a hazardous environment and, despite improvements in safety and regulation, it is a sad fact that accidents will still happen.  For people who have been unfortunate enough to have been injured at sea, a claim for compensation is likely to follow.


When claiming compensation for an injury at sea, it is worth using solicitors who are specialists in marine law.  This is because there are some peculiarities when it comes to claiming for accidents at sea.  This can (and does) catch out some solicitors. Bartons are specialists in marine law.


Most personal injury claims arising from an accident on land have to be brought within 3 years of an accident.  Usually, if legal proceedings are not issued at court within this time period, the claim will be time-barred and it will not be possible to bring a claim.


However, this time-limit is reduced to 2 years when a person on a ship has been injured, and that injury has been caused by the fault of another ship.  Such a situation will usually arise when there has been a collision between two ships, but it is important to realise that there does not always have to be a collision for the 2-year time-limit to apply.


For those that are passengers on a ship at the time of the accident, a 2-year time-limit is imposed by the Athens Convention.  The carrier may be strictly liable to compensate the injured passenger, but it will depend on whether the injury was caused by a ‘shipping incident’, and the carrier may be able to limit the amount they have to pay.


If an accident happens abroad, it may be necessary to consider whether foreign law will apply, and there could be different time limits.  Just because the injured person might live in the UK, it does not necessarily mean that the claim can be brought in the UK courts.  Also, there may be different standards of safety to consider.


Most claims arising from an accident at sea will need to be brought in the Admiralty Court.  This is part of the High Court of Justice, based in London, and specialises in shipping and maritime disputes.


It is possible to arrest a ship, to provide security for a claim.  In high-value cases, arising from serious injuries, the ship-owner may be able to rely upon a financial cap, thus restricting the amount the injured Claimant can recover.


Bartons Solicitors have a specialist marine department, based in Plymouth in Devon, with solicitors and barristers who not only have expertise in marine law but also have practical experience of the maritime environment.  We are regularly instructed to advise and defend claims on behalf of the ship-owner and/or their insurer, and we will also accept instructions to act on behalf of Claimants who have been injured at sea.


Contact Bartons Plymouth – Tel: +44 (0)1752 675740 – E-mail:


Photo by Peter Hansen on Unsplash